Here at CheapAir we often say that searching for airfares is like playing the stock market—airfares may go up one day and down the next with no obvious rhyme or reason. We’ve told you before about how airfare pricing is a science of its own. Now we want to give you some practical advice and share with you the approach and strategies that CheapAir travel advisors use when planning their own getaways.
Research early and often
It’s generally a good idea to start checking airfares a few months or more prior to your desired departure date. This way, you get a feel for the market and what the typical fares are. This is especially important if you don’t travel frequently. Getting a pulse on the market will arm you with the awareness you need to decide whether a fare is high, low or average. If fares drop, you’ll know it’s a good price and can act fast.
Plan around the cheapest days to fly
If you can, try to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the best fares for domestic travel. For international, shoot for Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. These are the least popular days to travel and you’ll likely find better fares for those days. Conversely, Fridays and Sundays are usually the most popular and, therefore, more expensive, so you’ll frequently save money if you can be flexible enough to avoid those days.
Don’t book too early or too late
Here are two popular myths about the best time to buy an airline ticket: (1) The further in advance you book, the better and (2), if you wait until the last minute there will be incredibly cheap, unsold seats. Both scenarios are untrue nearly every time. The truth is, there is no hard and fast rule, but there are some general trends to be aware of. Most airlines open flights for booking about 11 months in advance and at that time, fares tend to be high. Then, once you get within about five months of a flight you will start to see sporadic seat sales where the prices drop for a short period of time. This pattern will continue for a few months. On average, six weeks in advance is the least expensive time to buy a domestic flight – but that varies a lot depending on where you’re going and when you’re traveling. With popular cities on popular travel days, you are usually best to book even earlier. That’s especially true for holiday travel. So check often and when you do see a good deal or a big fare drop, don’t wait too long to pull the trigger. The best deals don’t normally stay around for too long. Finally, whatever you do, always try to book at least 21 days in advance. Within 21 days of departure, fares usually start to climb quite a bit.
Try to be flexible
The more flexible you are about everything, the better—days you can travel, which airline, which airports, etc. Figure out all the combinations of dates and airports you’d be willing to do, and check each one individually to make sure you are seeing the most options. Being flexible will provide you with the most choices and therefore you’ll have the better deals to choose from. This includes being willing to fly one airline going and another coming back, since sometimes the airline with the least expensive fare or best schedule in one direction does not have a great option for the other.
We’re here to help
I hope these trends and best practices help you to navigate the complexities of booking a good airfare. Remember, CheapAir Travel Advisors are always here to help. All of CheapAir’s Travel Advisors are U.S.-based and are available via phone (1-800-243-2724) or email (help@CheapAir.com). So if you have any questions, let us know.